Today, having an email address has become as normal as having a surname. My seven year old son and my seventy six year old mother have email addresses. We can safely say that the email overload phenomenon is nothing new. Since 1971 we have been sending emails, but since 1971 a large percentage of us have not learned how to most effectively use email and how to avoid it becoming a cross we have to bear.
Here are 9 healthy habits you can adopt to prevent you from suffering from the Email Overload phenomenon
Write better emails
Some people treat email as an opportunity to have a chat but that is not the purpose of email. If you are arranging a meeting get to the point rather than send an email that will open up a 10 part communication consider sending an email that is concise.
“Hi, are you free Friday at 11 to discuss the Project A? We could meet at Starbucks on the corner of Merrion Street.”
When, where and why are all available, now all the person has to say is yes if it suits them or suggest alternative arrangements if it doesn’t.
Pick up the Phone
A more efficient way to deal with arranging a meeting would be a telephone call. People often avoid making phone calls because they think it will take up too much time. Not true, arranging a time and place is much more efficient when you are speaking to someone in person, this way you can debate time and place more efficiently both parties being able to check calendars at the same time. Also if you send fewer emails you will logically receive fewer emails.
Remove yourself from all newsletter lists, group emails etc. If you want to subscribe to email newsletters best have a dedicated email address so not to clutter up your work inbox and also to avoid them disturbing your focus and concentration.
Chunk it up
Check emails in chunks; don’t get tempted to check emails consistently. Smart phones and tablet devices are really awesome but they are not so cool when people start to use them to check emails at all hours of the day, I’ve even know people who check them in bed (gasp!). What you can also do is advise people that you only check your emails twice a day and if they need a reply to something urgently they should rather call you.
Turn it off
Switch off all notifications of emails, on your PC and any other device that you receive email on. Never allow a ding or a bell disturb your focus from what you are working on. It may be an email telling you that you have landed a 1 million dollar deal but it could also be spam or an email from your aunt in Australia to tell you her dog is sick.
Keep it brief
Email is not a medium for spilling your heart out. Keep your messages brief and to the point. The less you write the more likely your question or query will be answered. Even though you want to send and receive less email it is still a better idea to send an email per topic, you are more likely to get an answer to all your questions and it also leaves a better trail if you need to find an email at a later date.
Process your email twice a day
When we say I have to check my email, it usually means you scan your email to see if there is anything urgent or interesting that you want to read or deal with. Checking email is the action to blame which can ultimately lead us to chaos, clutter and stress. It may seem like an exaggeration but if we let it go untended it can end up with thousands of emails sitting in you inbox without knowledge of whether they are actionable or dealt with. We need to substitute check for process. Processing is when we make a decision. We can Do, Delegate, Delete or Defer or we can use the Barabara Hemphill’s FAT method, File, Act or Trash.
Organize your email
The emails you need to keep for reference should be filed in a logical system and the emails that require action should be either moved to your calendar or your task system. All those that don’t fall into these categories should be trashed.
Get a Life
Remember that your email doesn’t own you. You are the adult around here and you need to take control. Follow these actions advised and before long you will be hanging out in your empty Inbox wondering why you feel so calm and peaceful.
(Photo credit: An image of some flying envelopes via Shutterstock)